AROUND this time two years ago, Selangor folk were scrambling to save water as the dry spell forced the state government to ration water but the situation is considerably much better this year, thanks to the authorities taking the lesson to heart.
The unfortunate water rationing exercise was an eye-opener for everyone especially the Selangor government which was heavily criticised for its lack of forethought to battle the dry spell.
While a few northern states are already facing water shortage, state chairman for infrastructure and public facilities Zaidy Abdul Talib said Selangor would have the minimum requirement of 800 million litres per day (MLD) even if El Nino lasted till June.
Zaidy said that with the expected arrival of the monsoon season next month, water levels in the seven dams in Selangor would be higher than the current 70% capacity.
He added that the state had been aggressively implementing several methods to ensure there was no shortage of water sources.
“We learned a lot from that episode and have been constantly trying to remedy any problem we had back then,” said Zaidy.
One of the most crucial things, he said, was to ensure the water level at all seven dams were full especially since the Sungai Selangor and Sungai Tinggi dams provided nearly 60% of the water supply in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
According to Zaidy, the water levels at the seven dams are above 70%; thus there will not be any water rationing at least for several weeks.
To ensure this continues, the state government has been conducting cloud seeding exercise over the dams and rivers.
Cloud seeding, said Zaidy, was initially conducted only when the hot season approached but this year the exercise started early and had been carried out every day.
This year, the cloud seeding exercise in Selangor began on Jan 16 to brace for the El Nino phenomenon.
The authorities are also looking at the frequency of releasing water from the dams after taking into consideration the weather, rainfall and water level at rivers as well as the dams.
“Previously we just release the water as and when, but now we check first and decide based on analysis of need and adequacy,” Zaidy said.
Water from the dams is released to the rivers during the dry season and an intake valve allows water to flow into the treatment plants.
The treatment plants require a strong flow from the river to turn the turbines, as such water is released from dams and reservoirs to boost the low water level and flow during the hot season.
The state government and water agencies have also learnt new techniques to ensure adequate water supply such as inter-basin transfer.
Under this technique, water is transferred from one dam to another using pumps, hence allowing water to be evenly distributed.
“We also have interstate transfer, from Sungai Semantan in Pahang to Sungai Langat,” said Zaidy.
Despite these efforts, the weather has created other problems including ammonia pollution at Sungai Semenyih and Sungai Langat.
The ammonia is usually from septic tanks. In normal circumstances, the quantity released is within permitted levels and is usually diluted by the river.
However, the dry season has made it difficult for the lower amount of water to dilute the pollutants, forcing a halt to the treatment process as the water treatment plants can only clean a certain amount of raw water.
For now, the problem is being monitored closely by Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS). LUAS is using water from Sungai Semantan to dilute the excess ammonia pollutants.
“We are studying other methods as well, including the possibility of upgrading the machines at the water treatment plants to enable us to process higher quantities of ammonia,” Zaidy disclosed.
The authorities are also in the process of building two new water-treatment plants -- Labuhan Dagang in Kuala Langat with a 200MLD capacity and Semenyih 2 to be built at Jenderam Hilir with a 100MLD capacity.
The Labuhan Dagang plant will supply water to Sijangkang, Banting and Teluk Panglima Garang while Semenyih will serve Semenyih and Beranang. Both projects will start in mid-2016.
The much anticipated Mitigation Project 2 is also ready and will be launched on Friday to achieve an output of 300 million litres of water daily. Water from the Mitigation Project 2 will be distributed to Petaling, Shah Alam and Klang.
Zaidy said Selangor folk used an alarmingly large quantity of water, about 235 litres per capita a day.
“We urge the people to be prudent when using water at home. This is one of the ways we can ensure continued water supply in the state for the future,” he said.
To kickstart this awareness exercise, the state will be launching a Save Water campaign on Sunday.